A woman gives birth to a baby girl. Little does she know but she and her daughter are already unwanted. Three women are released from prison and their need for money leads them to take desperate measures. An unmarried woman seeking an abortion is rejected from her father's house by the violent threats of her brothers. Their crimes are vague, their guilt or innocence unimportant. Their paths cross, the suspense of their intrigues heightens. Their plights are often too tragically similar. Their world is one of constant surveillance bureaucracy and age-old inequalities. But this stifling world cannot extinguish the spirit strength and courage of the circle of women. Farsi language with English subtitles. Color, Approximate Running Time 91 minutes, Not Rated. Special Features include interactive menus, scene access, director interview, optional subtitles, trailers, weblinks, and DVD-ROM essay.
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It's a girl. The first words spoken in Jafar Panahi's The Circle should be celebratory, but instead the mood of the scene is mournful. The relatives will be furious. Director Jafar Panahi leaves the innocence of his delightful The White Balloon behind in this harrowing, passionate portrait of the plight women endured in Iran before the easing of strict Muslim law. His vision of women scrambling through streets and dodging cops like fugitives in a police state is more of a nightmarish fable than a realist drama, but no less affecting for it. Panahi drifts through the stories of a handful of women recently released from prison (their crimes are left ominously vague) with an easy grace and an angry sense of injustice that brings us full circle: back to prison, where a cell door shuts with a deafening clang that reverberates through the credits and beyond. --Sean Axmaker
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